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Friday, January 11, 2013

Superior Spider-Man Sketch Variant Cover Sales Hype!

So, are variant covers good comic investments? After all, they always seem to be worth more than the cover price shortly after they're released.

I'm going to be blunt and direct about this topic. I cannot stand variant covers, and as investments, I steer clear away from them as if they had STD's.

Sure, most variant covers are lower print runs and deemed "rarer" than the first printing, but don't be fooled by the prices. The minute these variant covers hit the shelves they are already over-inflated.

For example, me and my buddy, Gerry, went to my local comic shop to grab up the first issue of Superior Spider-Man #1 when it came out Jan 9th. One of the 10 variant covers that Marvel released was already marked up to $30 bucks at my local. A brand new comic, fresh out of the box, and already selling way above it's cover price

Superior Spider-Man #1 Quesada Sketch Variant
Most comic dealers do this, and if they aren't then it's the speculators driving up the mad prices. 

A lot of speculators are going coocoo over the Quesada sketch variant cover of Superior Spider-Man #1. Can you get this for the already expensive $3.99?

No, this comic was pre-selling on ebay for $350.00 before it was even released! Now bids for this issue are ending around $200. It's only been 2 days after it's release, and many of these auctions started at .99 cents. However, expect the price to keep falling.

Most comic collectors have misconceptions about variant covers, believing that lucky collectors get them for cover price and they keep rising in value over the years. The truth is that most variant covers start off at ridiculous prices already and then fall in value. 

If a speculator got the Quesada sketch variant for $350 and the price falls to $200 and then levels off at $150 after a few months, that is NOT a good investment choice. This is the speculator market at it's worst.

Civil War #1 Michael Turner Sketch Variant Cover
But, don't just take my word for it. Let's bring in some facts here:

Take the first issue of the Civil War Series in 2006 by Marvel (one of my favorite reads in the past few years). It was an extremely hot title and series at the time. They pumped out six different variant covers just for issue #1 alone.

Back when the issue was first released in 2006, the Michael Turner variant cover 1:75 sketch cover was extremely hot! And of course, when this variant cover first hit the market, some cockeyed collectors and completists were scrambling to grab this variant like it was the last twinkie on the planet.

Here's the prices for Dec 2006 and March 2007:

2006 Near Mint 9.4 price: $120

2007 Near Mint 9.4 price: $102

2013 Near Mint 9.4 price: $12.00

That does not look like a good long term investment to me. From Dec to March of the next year, that variant was already on it's way down. Even worse, the price of that variant was probably more or near $120 when it first came running out of the gates.

Astonishing X-Men #4 Variant Cover
From my personal experience, I'm going to bring up Astonishing X-Men #4. This was the issue that brought back Colossus, and I did snag this variant cover when I first saw it at my local.

I got it because I actually liked the cover better than the first print cover. Besides, I like Colossus and I thought the artwork was pretty amazing. Did I hope that it would be a good investment? Yes, I can't lie about that. I actually did hope it would someday be valuable, forgetting the lessons I had learned of variant covers back in the 90s.

The variant was already marked up to $20 dollars when I got it, but as soon as I took it home and tucked it neatly away in my collection, I soon started regretting it. So was this a good investment? Did believing in all the variant hype pay off? Well, let's take a looksie.

March 2005 Near Mint 9.4 price: $22.00

2013 Near Mint 9.4 price: $6.00 big ones!  

Yee haw! I lost on that call. But let's take some variants that have been successful. Seems fair, right?

Spider-Man #1 Gold with UPC
What about Spider-Man #1 Gold with UPC?

Another famous variant book released back in 1990, it's also another comic with a ka-zillion variant covers. Okay, being that this new titled series kicked off with Todd McFarlane's artwork was also a major selling point!

However, with a limited print-run, this comic cover variant was also in high-demand during the 90s speculator boom! Did this variant cover pay off?

Lets take a gander at the price comparison over the years.  

2005 Near Mint 9.4 price: $170   
2011 Near Mint 9.4 price: $120 
2013 Near Mint 9.4 price: $125 

Now, that's not too bad, right? Actually, it's not bad at all if you got this comic at the cover price of $1.75. That's a good investment if one didn't buy this variant at an over-inflated price when it first came out.

It seems the comic book companies really haven't learned much since the comic book crash of the 90s. All these variants and speculators drove the market to the ground at the time. All the lame holographic covers and zillion variant covers still leaves a bad taste in my mouth when I see the gimmicky variant covers today. 

Look, if you like them because of the artwork and are a fan of sketch covers, that's cool! If you're speculating that a variant cover is going to be worth thousands 20 years from now, then you're gonna learn the hard way.     

This is even true with most variant covers that you can get at the cover price today. Don't expect them to be worth more than the cover price a few years from now.

Don't buy into the variant cover hype. Like the 90s, speculators often do NOT reap in the rewards. It's the dealers who do. Why else do you think they call them "dealer exclusives" or "dealer incentives" and not "speculator incentives". 


  1. thanks for this post! i am still confused though. in your important list of modern age comics 4 out of the 5 listed on the first page are variants. seems to me like it might be worth obtaining these variants if they have a limited pressing, you can get them at a good price (tough to do on new issues), and are of an established comic series.

    or maybe i just need to lose a chunk of money on one of these rogue investments myself first :)

    regardless, i am having trouble getting info on how many copies of a particular variant issue were printed. any pointers? thanks again.

  2. No need to be confused. This post was my personal opinion on variant covers and why I don't like them. Of course, giving an opinion, I have to back that up with why, and I brought in facts of how variants are over-inflated to begin with and then drop in value.

    Yes, just because my opinion is the opposite does not make a comic any less important or valuable. Ultimate Spider-Man #1 white background variant is an important key issue and it's valuable. However, it isn't $400 like it was back in 2006 (book came out in 2000). But the price is stable today, and that's a good thing.

    The point of my post is that speculators on modern comics, especially variants over pay way too much on them. If they're lucky they may get it CGC graded and get it back as a 9.9! That's a pretty huge gamble, though.

    Out of the running gate, these variant values are fast and quick, but have little stamina. If you want to pay $350 for a modern comic variant (I'd still rather buy a key issue silver age or bronze age book with that kinda dough), hold off until the price drops and levels off.

    Even still, I'd much rather buy a VG Incredible Hulk #181 for $350 than any modern age variant cover. At least I know the first appearance of Wolverine has proven to have long-term demand.

  3. thanks for clarifying... i used to buy a lot of comics when younger and recently dug em up and found some gems in there. back then it was purely for enjoyment purposes though and i purchased them at cover price only.

    when i saw that some of the comics i had bought would have been worth a lot more if i had gotten the variants covers... this ticked me off a bit but the more i learn about them the less i want to buy them. my first thought when i read a wiki page about them i came to the conclusion that they were a way for insiders to shaft the public.

    the more i read about your way of investing the more i like it. it's the most sound way i've read about so far and have decided to make my first purchase Hulk #181. plus i already own the first wolverine mini-series and the first 50 issues of volume #2.

    again thanks for taking the time to write this blog and for putting up with my ignorant ass :)

    1. I went exactly what you went through, and I also started collecting in the mid 80s purely for the enjoyment. The artwork was great and the stories were amazing. I still enjoy reading comics...just not my real valuable ones.

      However, once I learned that comics could be valuable, I became intrigued. If it weren't for the previous owner of my local comic shop I frequent, I wouldn't have learned much. He really taught me a lot, and showed me pieces of his collection here and was 9.6 CGC graded X-Men #1 (1963) series. A few more were other high grade key issue comics that were worth thousands of dollars each.

      Before I was frustrated with dealers trying to sell me this and that just because, and I noticed that my collection wasn't worth squat. Even worse, I couldn't even sell my 90s comics for .35 cents, way below cover price of what I got them.

      I had to learn the hard way...I think most people do...but I was fortunate to have a comic dealer teach me some things about comics as investments, what to gun for, as well as how most comic dealers really operate. Of course, not every comic I invest int is going to pan matter how much research I do...that's just life. But, it sure beats going about it I once did, and had a less than impressive collection to show for it.

      No worries and thanks for reading and commenting. No question is stupid and it's one of the reasons why I started this blog. Feel free to share this blog or posts you like on whatever social media you may be a part of to help spread the word. I would greatly appreciate it.

  4. Spiderman Current Series lost me around early 600's when it just got plain stupid writing. Spider Island?? Everyone gets Spidey's Powers? Mary Jane had a secret affiar just befor they got married?? And now Parker is in Oc's body?....this hails back to the Lame Cloning ofthe 90's and IS NOT MY SPIDERMAN..I wouldn't give you 5 cents for #700. This all made me have a sense for "the suckering" that goes on with variants, pricing, killing off characters to generate comic interest and so I'm "Stictly Vintage". First thing did was to sell off every Spidey over 600, then every Spawn issue with exception to #1 B&W & 150 sketch (in case Mcfarlane ever gets off his @$$ and makes another movie. My collecton now has meat and teeth. Spidey 129 (7.5), 1st hawkeye(8.5), spidey # 9 (8.0), Hulk 181 (5.5), Iron Man 55 (7.5) etc..Even Kick Ass, as great as the 1st series was, will prolly hit the chopping block when the movie hits (k.a.2)I will then use the proceeds to finish the few remaining 1960's Spidey's I need, and attack more Keys and so the way, I agree with almost everything you have posted, and I even (before ever seeing this site) aquired almost every Key Spidey that you listed in Mid to high grade cgc... i thought, if I drop dead tomorrow, or go to sell these 20-30 years frm now, all we/they have to do is list them on ebay and not have to argue over condition grades. And the same thing now applies to Star Wars, which was a dead horse just 6 months ago. As long as there are more movies, it's money in the bank...or better(while the 401k gains gains $ every year, Amazing Fantasy 15 gains $$$$$ every single year!!)Keep up the good work!

    1. Looks like you've got some great key issues in your collection L.K.! That's awesome! I've been in the process of getting rid of most of my modern age comics, especially the garbage from the 90s, to fund more vintage key issues and give my collection more meat in teeth as well.

      The new Star Wars flicks are gonna drive the Marvel Comic series bonkers! That's a key issue any serious collector who wants a good comic investment should be gunning for right now.

      Thanks for all your comments and joining the convo L.K. Great insights and much appreciated!

  5. I stay away from modern day comics for investment purposes and that includes "yes" Walking Dead #1!!!
    Why? because even the Walking dead will have a dead price sooner or later. Prices are already stabilizing at roughly 2400.00 9.8 cgc.. Will it keep increasing? Hard to say as there are abundant 9.8 graded copies even if they're were 7,000 copies printed.. If only a handful graded at 9.8 then skies the limit. But if u want advice look for Silver age key books Marvel ones at that..

  6. I couldnt agree with you more. I believe that variants of any kind are a total waste of time and MONEY. I got rid of all my modern comics because if the overabundance and focused solely on silver, bronze, & copper age. Now I own one hell of a comic collection. As for variants, my best advice is STAY AWAY!

    1. It seems like we are all on agreement here when it comes to so called variant covers as terrible comic investments, as well as modern age comics. I'm glad you all have realized's a shame some out there are still hoping the new comics they buy now will be valuable in thirty years, but that's due to inexperience and bad, or lack of, information.

    2. What about comics I buy at retail? Are they a bad investment at $3.99?

    3. I seriously haven't experienced any modern variant I've bought at retail that has sustained hype prices and usually don't fizzle shortly afterwards. That's just me though. I'm pretty much done with trying to convince people either way. They're gonna do what they're do.

    4. I think those variants are good for quick flipping. No harm in getting them for cover price either.

  7. Here are some of my collection in hopes that comic collectors will stay vintage. Compare these to modern comic book values.
    Signature Series Collection
    CGC 7.5 House of Secrets 92 (B. W)
    CGC 7.5 ASM 129 (S. L)
    CGC 8.0 Tales of Suspense 57( S. L.)
    CGC 8.0 Captain America 100 (S. L.)
    CGC 6.0 ASM 7( S. L.)
    CGC 7.5 ASM 20 (S. L.)
    CGC 8.0 Captain America 110 ( J. S.)
    CGC 8.5 Avengers 57 (S. L.)
    These are only but a few.

    1. Great list of awesome comics in your collection!

    2. Thanks,

      Like I said, these are only but a handful. I normally don't advertise my collection but I just wanted to respond to the variants and how a waste I believe they are. It took me years to build up my collection and they are all vintage. I can honestly say that I am very proud of my collection. So to all new collectors out there stay away from variants and modern comics.


    3. It's cool...I like it when others share their collection. I can imagine it took you a while to build up your collection. CGC signature series with Stan Lee's autograph are pretty pricey, but great investments. I'm hoping new collectors will read the info I'm providing if they seriously hope their comic collections to be valuable someday. If not, they could be in for a rude awakening...much like I was quite a few years ago before learning the ropes, so to speak.

      Thanks for joining the convo RG!

  8. I love this site as it keeps me informed and no other site does that. I remember the article when saying buy Starnge Tales over 8 months ago and was soooo on the money when I did. I picked a fine + copy and now it's reaching incredible prices. Any other hot tips u have as far as silver age sleepers to buy. Thanks again huge fan of this site

    1. Hey there and glad you like this site. You got in early on Strange Tales, so congrats on that score!

      As for other sleeper comics, you can check out the tabs on the top of this site marked "Key Issue Alerts" and "On The Hunt" and they'll have a list of more posts with recommendations. I just did an Avengers key issue list and the top Fantastic Four key issues. There are a few sleepers in that list as well.

  9. I've started up collecting again and I was wondering on your take on variants that are first issue?

  10. Hello there, I really love your posts. So thanks!

    I have started collecting comics recently and also decided to dabble in buying as an investment. Not as a way to make quick money, but for the real fun of it. And who knows, in the long run I may even earn a few dollars.

    I have given myself a limited budget. Because of that, I have consciously chosen to focus on modern keys and modern variants of these keys.

    But, and this I figured out myself and now also through you, I do not buy variants new. I wait until the price has settled a bit, typically 1-10 years out, and then I try to figure out where the demand is and may grow and then I try and purchase the right variant for a sharp price. And then I enjoy the beautiful cover, I store it carefully (that is fun in itself!) and I wait.

    I do not pay much for such a variant, typically 10-20 dollar plus shipment. So it really is for the fun of the hunt and the feeling I have been able to get a good price.

    And who knows, maybe I will make enough money with it one day to pay me a nice holiday :-)

    Thanks and have a great time!